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US economic turmoil -Is it 2008 all over again?

It feels eerily familiar: Stocks are plummeting. The economy is slowing. Politicians are scrambling to find solutions but are mired in disagreement.

business Updated: Aug 11, 2011 23:42 IST

It feels eerily familiar: Stocks are plummeting. The economy is slowing. Politicians are scrambling to find solutions but are mired in disagreement.

Many Americans are wondering whether they are in for a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008. The answer is a matter of fierce debate among economists and market experts.

Many say the risks are lower today - at least in terms of an immediate crisis - because the financial system over all is healthier and there are fewer hidden problems. But the experts add that there are reasons to worry, and they do not rule out a quick downward spiral if politicians in the United States and in Europe cannot calm investors by addressing fundamental financial threats.

The core problem, as it was three years ago, is too much debt that borrowers are having a hard time repaying - but this time it is government debt rather than consumer debt.

"So far it's not as bad as 2008, but it could get much worse because the sovereign debt concerns are much more global than the subprime mortgage risk of 2008," said Darrell Duffie, a professor of finance at Stanford and an expert on the banking system.

A growing lack of confidence is perhaps the most troubling similarity to 2008 and the biggest worry. "There's a level of fear out there that is a little similar," said Michael Hanson, a senior economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "It's not just the fundamentals. It's the fear of the unknown."

The bigger concern of many financiers and government officials was signs of stress in European credit markets, which are essential to financing the day-to-day operations of banks and companies there.